Thursday, March 14, 2013

Celebrating Pi Day - Studious Metsimus Style!

Happy π Day, everyone!  For those of you who do not know what that squiggly symbol is, it's the Greek letter "pi".  Math geeks such as myself know that in geometry, pi is the ratio of a circle's circumference to its diameter.  In numbers, the value of this constant is approximately 3.14, or 3.14159265359 if you're not into the whole brevity thing.

Since today is 3/14, that makes today Pi Day.  (Get it?  Just say you do so we can move on.)  As a lover of all things statistical and mathematical, I decided to have some fun with today's celebration of Pi Day by coming up with Mets players who have pi in their eyes - and it has nothing to do with Justin Turner sneaking up behind them.

It's always a good time for pie ... and Pi!

Three pitchers have posted a 3.14 career ERA as Mets.  Those three "pi"-tchers are:

  • Sid Fernandez (1984-93): 553 earned runs in 1,584⅔ innings.
  • Willie Blair (1998): 10 earned runs in 28⅔ innings.
  • Mike Hampton (2000): 76 earned runs in 217⅔ innings.

No pitcher has ever had a .314 winning percentage as a Met.  But four pitchers came painfully close, as Willard Hunter (1962, 1964), Randy Jones (1981-82) and Shawn Estes (2002) finished their Met careers with a .308 winning percentage, while Ray Burris (1979-80) and Frank Tanana (1993) were slightly better at .318.

Turk Wendell once pitched in nine consecutive games for the Mets, but had he pitched 1⅓ more innings, he would have finished his Met career with exactly 314 innings pitched.  Similarly, no Met has ever pitched in exactly 314 games, but if Bobby Parnell appears in exactly 65 games in 2013, he will go into the 2013-14 offseason with 314 pitching appearances as a Met.

Speaking of the Mets' closer-in-waiting, should Parnell make those 65 appearances, while pitching exactly 57⅔ innings and striking out 79 batters, he would win the Triple Crown of Pi, as he would finish the year with 314 lifetime innings pitched and 314 strikeouts, to go with his 314 games pitched.

And what about the hitters, you ask?  Well, ask and ye shall receive.

John Olerud has the highest career batting average of any Mets player (minimum 2,000 plate appearances), collecting 524 hits in 1,662 at-bats.  But if the official scorer had changed two of his hits to errors, Olerud would have finished his career with a .314 batting average as a Met.  I'm sure no one except pi enthusiasts are complaining about his .315 average while wearing orange and blue.

Remember Larry Elliot and Bill Spiers?  No?  Well, they both finished their Met careers with a .314 on-base percentage.  Elliot achieved his relatively low OBP from 1964 to 1966, while Spiers was fortunate to have been with the Mets in 1995 and not a decade and a half later when Sandy Alderson would have chastised him for not taking more pitches.

If Bill Spiers had fought to get on base as hard as he fought this fan on the field, perhaps he would have had a higher OBP.

Rey Ordoñez (.310) and Buddy Harrelson (.287) both had notoriously low slugging percentages.  But only Billy Cowan finished his Mets career with a .314 slugging percentage.  Almost half (13) of his 28 hits as a Met went for extra bases, which usually translates to a high slugging percentage.  Of course, having a .179 overall batting average can tend to keep a slugging percentage down.  (Ordoñez and Harrelson hit like batting champions compared to Cowan.)

Kirk Nieuwenhuis and Jerry Grote have almost nothing in common.  But a quick look at their cumulative stats reveals their one commonality.  No Met hitter has ever collected exactly 314 doubles, 314 homers, 314 RBIs, 314 stolen bases, 314 walks or 314 strikeouts.  But Nieuwenhuis currently has exactly 314 plate appearances as a Met while Grote scored 314 runs for New York.  They are the only two players in Mets history to have a "314" under any of the cumulative stats.

Okay, kids.  That's it for your Pi Day lesson.  Let's recap what we learned today:

  • Sid Fernandez was really good for a really long time.
  • Shawn Estes couldn't win and couldn't hit Roger Clemens with a pitch.
  • Bobby Parnell could be living the Life of Pi after this season.
  • John Olerud didn't need Bobby Bonilla to call the official scorer to change an error to a hit.
  • Larry Elliot and Bill Spiers would have made Sandy Alderson angry.
  • Billy Cowan couldn't hit his weight as a Met.
  • Kirk Nieuwenhuis has as many plate appearances as he has vowels in his last name.

I hope you were able to celebrate Pi Day responsibly with your friends and family.  Now if only the Mets could win 3.14 games for every game they lose this season, then we'd all have a good reason to celebrate.

Happy π Day!

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